Makiya Montgomery of the Beechcroft High School girls track and field team might have been central Ohio's biggest breakthrough performer last season.
Last year as a freshman, she captured the championship in the 100 meters (11.98 seconds), was runner-up in the 200 (24.8) and placed fourth in the 400 (56.1) in the Division II state meet at Ohio State.
She'd like to build on those finishes and help the Cougars improve this spring.
"No. 1 for my team is just (having) positive vibes and working hard," Montgomery said. "For me, (I) just (want) to defend my title and have more victories."
Montgomery, whose 23 points helped Beechcroft place sixth at state last season, opened the season March 27 with runner-up finishes in the 100 (12.82) and 200 (26.82) in the Hamilton Township Booster Invitational. The Cougars scored 46 points in the 12-team event to place fifth behind champion Watterson (165).
Other top athletes for Beechcroft include senior Jaymie Roberts (hurdles), junior Patricia Cornejo (sprints) and sophomore Cha'mia Vick (sprints).
Last season, the Cougars finished sixth (44) in the 14-team City League meet behind champion Northland (149).
"Our leadership is really good," sixth-year coach Mike Moncrief said. "They want us to be successful and they're working their tails off. The girls have had really good camaraderie."
The boys scored 18 points in the 11-team Booster Invitational to place 10th behind champion Whitehall (107.5).
Seniors Solomon Conteh, Sincere Gordon and Shemar Samuel and junior Na'elle Simmons lead the sprint corps.
The Cougars finished 11th (12) in the 14-team City meet last season behind champion Eastmoor Academy (125).
"We're still trying to see what they can do," coach Duane Gosa said. "The majority are soccer players and freshmen. We're hoping that we can reach the (Division I) regional at least in some events."
Vikings track teams also are optimistic
The Northland boys track team is hoping its season ends in the Division I state meet after it was unable to advance any athletes beyond regional last year.
Senior Mike Williams, juniors J.J. Branham, Mark Lee and Jesse Prewitt III and sophomore Kalil Branham are among the key returnees.
At regional last year, J.J. Branham, Lee and Williams joined 2017 graduate Albert Adusei on the 400 relay that placed eighth (43.94), while Branham placed seventh in the 400 (50.09), Prewitt III was eighth in the long jump (20 feet, 2 inches) and Williams was 11th in the 200 (22.78).
Senior Sincere Ingram, who runs the 400, is another athlete whom third-year coach Gerald Baker believes will be a key contributor.
"We've got most of our kids back," Baker said. "We won the City last year in the (800 relay) and were second in the (400 relay), and we just want to try to build on that. We have a stronger sprint base than we had last year.
"Our numbers are up and our attitudes are really good. This is the most hungry and most dedicated they've been, so I'm blessed to get a chance to coach them."
The Northland girls broke the mark for points in the City meet last season.
Seniors Charlea Henley, Jordan Saffold and Jeana Weatherspoon played a key role in that accomplishment and have returned this spring.
They ran on the 800 relay that placed fourth (1:40.2) at state last season along with senior Iyanna Ross, who transferred to Pickerington Central during the offseason.
Henley added a sixth-place finish in the long jump (17-9 1/4) at state last season as the Vikings scored eight points to tie for 30th.
Another key returnee is junior Michole Martinez, who teamed with Henley, Ross and 2017 graduate Monet Martinez to place 12th in the 1,600 relay (4:13.61) at regional last year.
Seniors Oajah Alcorn (distance), Sha'ekia Jackson (long jump) and Joy Johnson (shot put, discus), juniors Destiny Thomas (sprints) and Kaniya Webb (hurdles), sophomores Bryanna Brown (sprints) and Tiffany Ofori (hurdles) and freshman Tyra Thomas (sprints) are others who should contribute.
"We're really solid," 15th-year coach Tom Fast said. "Where we'll be better is in distance. Oajah will be one of the favorites to win the 800 in the City. What separates us is we also have distance and field (athletes) this year. We have really good jumpers. The fact that we have so many seniors and juniors to lead the underclassmen has really helped us cope with the unbelievable crappy weather."
Eastmoor track teams plan to remain strong
The Eastmoor boys track team is hoping its depth in the middle distance events will help it remain the City's top overall program this season.
The Warriors, who have won seven consecutive league championships, return seniors Chris Chandler and Omavi Hamilton and junior Bushra Bonkiye from the 3,200 relay that placed seventh (8:06.64) in the Division II regional last season.
Junior Wesley Prater is another top returnee after placing 10th in the long jump (20-4 3/4) and running on the 1,600 relay that qualified for regional.
Seniors Tariq Brown and Stanley Williams and junior Roshaun Harper are others looking to contribute in sprints and middle distance.
"We know that we're going to be good in all facets other than pole vault," 15th-year coach Jason Lewis said.
"We have some throwers and some jumpers and we can run short or long with about 36 kids out."
The Eastmoor girls team placed fourth (56) in the City meet last season and has just four seniors among its 34 competitors.
"We have a lot of new kids," coach Mark Anthony said. "We have a lot of versatility, and we'll do better in field events and jumps and hurdles this year. Traditionally, we've had great hurdlers."
Senior Jennaia Williams and junior Tyler White are the top sprinters.
Senior Trinity Cox and sophomore Jaylin Bradshaw lead the middle distance corps, with junior Samaria Rodgers-Gossett expected to compete in the long jump, 400 and possibly longer races.
"The members of our freshman class have been great students of the sport, so I'm enjoying this crew because of the youth," Anthony said.
Vikings softball team continuing to build
A strong second half helped the Northland softball team finish 11-11 overall and place third in the City League-North Division at 9-5 last season.
There are key returnees scattered throughout its lineup and there are just three seniors in the program for the Vikings, who opened March 26 with a 21-4 victory at Beechcroft.
"We're very young with four freshmen, including two who are starting," coach Dan Zedeker said. "I've got 27 kids and I have a lot of new kids. I love these kids like my own."
Sophomore Tenasia Watson was the winning pitcher against Beechcroft.
Junior Amara McCuen-Roberts also should see time in the circle when not playing at first base.
Other key players include juniors Keyerra Norris (SS) and Ma'Kaela Warner (CF), sophomores Ashley Edwards (C), Aniah Harper-Sherrod (3B) and Shaniya Pegues (OF) and freshmen Skyiah Johnson (OF) and Jayla McKinnie (2B).
Last season, the Vikings lost twice to both Centennial and Whetstone and split with East in league play. Centennial beat Whetstone in a one-game playoff to determine the City-North's representative in the league finale after both went 13-1.